February 19, 2020

Clarifying Points in Regards to Mayor’s Response to PCTV Open Letter

To the Editor:

We need to clarify several points in response to the mayor’s recent comments regarding Princeton Community Television [“Mayor Lempert Responds to PCTV’s Jan. 29 Open Letter,” Mailbox, Feb. 5].

It is worth reminding the mayor that PCTV has provided a valuable service to residents and community groups for three decades — one that is all the more worthwhile in this era of cable-dominated and social media news in which the public’s voice has faded and local community news coverage has been disappearing.

Numerous residents and organizations have attested that PCTV is a tremendous asset to them. It brings the community together, provides opportunities for nonprofits, extends internships to students, and offers valuable opportunities to highlight important community issues. To suggest that PCTV can easily be replaced by individuals producing their own media on phones is to take away all the community and educational aspects of the station that make PCTV so special.

First, PCTV has never been part of the town’s operating budget. The station has not and does not cost the taxpayer a single penny.

Second, we are surprised at the mayor’s assertion that many of those who use PCTV’s facilities reside in other municipalities. The original and existing PCTV bylaws, written by municipal officials and residents, specifically encourage inclusion, not exclusion, of all voices.

Third, the mayor has publicly praised PCTV for being excellent financial stewards of its funds. She knows PCTV has had to rely on its reserves ($123,000 as of January 2020) to keep the station open after the town terminated cable franchise funding.

Franchise fees make up 84 percent while private fundraising is 16 percent of PCTV’s budget. However, the mayor leaves out important information related to this spike in income going back to 2015. From 2006 to 2014, all cable franchise fees received by the town were passed on directly to PCTV under the signed and approved 2006 agreement between the town and PCTV. Of the $362,297 contractually owed to PCTV for the years 2012, 2013, and 2014, only $207,151 was paid by the town in 2015. The $155,146 difference was withheld by the town, in violation of the existing 2006 agreement, and has not been remitted to this day. Additionally, PCTV received only $51,978 in franchise fees for the year 2015 out of the $364,442 received by the town. PCTV should have received approximately $262,000 for 2015; a deficit of $210,022. If appropriate payments were made to PCTV during this time, then yes we would now have a reserve of just under $500,000.

Understanding the financial challenges facing the town, we remain open to returning to a constructive dialogue with the mayor and Council members to resolve this matter and to find common ground that would give PCTV a reasonable amount of transition funding as we move toward self-reliance.

Withholding the franchise fees for PCTV and essentially putting it out of business seems contrary to what residents have expressed they desire. It ends a community institution of inclusivity, collaboration, transparency, and the benefits of a free press to all citizens regardless of socioeconomic status.

PCTV Board Of Trustees
Monument Drive